Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Learning about Camo

After this activity/activities students will have experienced the difference between "predating" non-camouflaged jelly bellies and camouflaged jelly bellies.  As a result, students will clearly understand how camouflage helps creatures that use it, survive predation.  Young students will have an experience they can describe to others when asked for an example of how camouflage helps the animals that use it to demonstrate their understanding.  For older students, they can graph the experience and create a visual representation depicting the difference between camouflaged and un-camouflaged prey.


1.  Find a bunch of toys that you don't mind having outside and in the dirt that blend in with your landscaping as well as two or three toys that will stand out.  While your child is distracted "hide" the toys in plain site.  Have your child count how many toys he sees from the window and point them out to you.

2.  Let your child go outside and find all the toys - don't make this easy, let him/her work to find some of the ones that blend in the best.

3.  Have your child sort the toys into easy - to - find and hard - to - find piles.  Ask your child why he/she thinks some of the toys were harder to find.  Do not critique the answer, just repeat it back to them as though you are making sure you understand his/her answer clearly.

4.  Back inside, discuss what camouflage is, or read a book about it.  There are plenty of non-fiction books about camouflage out there and even more books about animals or ecology with a section about camo within.  for elementary - aged kids I suggest the book, "Where in the Wild".  It is simply a collection of well-taken photos where you try to find the animal within the photo.  There is always a poem to go with the photo that gives you a hint about the type of animal you are looking for and a flap to open if you really get stuck and can't find the hidden creature.  (The ISBN-13 is 978-1-58246-207-3 and the poetry was written by David M. Schwartz and Yael Schy, while the photos were provided by Dwight Kuhn).

A Follow Up for your Preschoolers, OR a great activity for your Elementary or Middle School students:

1.  Find a whole bunch of items all in the same color (beads, buttons paper clippings etc - see photo).  After making sure everything you will be using is clean, place all these items and some contrasting candies (skittles, m&m's, jelly bellies etc. all work) in the bowl.  (Set the same number of candies of similar color aside for the next round)  Hand your child a pair of small tongs, or large tweezers.  Your child must remove the candies one at a time but as fast as he or she can. Time how long it takes for your child to find all the candies in the bowl.  If you are doing this activity in a classroom setting, break the kids into groups and run the "experiment" once for each child.  Have your students record, and share their times in order to make a whole-class graph.  If you are doing this activity with one or two children only, run the experiment 5 or 6 times (perhaps using non-edible items, so they don't get a sugar rush) and graph the separate experiences.

2. Repeat step five, but do the step with the candies of a similar color to your background instead of a contrasting color.  It will likely take longer for your child to find the candies of a similar color.  Point this out to your predator and ask why he/she thinks it took longer one time over the other.  If the answer wasn't already about camouflage or the color blending in to the background in some way during the first activity, it will likely be this time.

3.  With older kids you can do a similar activity about mimicry using two very similarly colored sets of jelly bellies.  For example, have a solid red color and a speckled red color in a bowl together with a bunch of other red items.  Ask your older child to ONLY get the speckled jelly bellies and even with the tweezers, give them 15 seconds to get as many as they can.  They will likely have a hard time distinguishing between the jelly beans when trying to work this quickly and under these circumstances.  Then read a book or website that discusses mimicry and the variety of reasons mimicry is useful in the animal world.

Item of note, these activities are largely analogous to the prey being camouflaged, however predators use camouflage as well.  Mimicry is used as a type of camouflage, but it also has other applications in the animal world as well.  For children in the later Elementary grades you'll want to point this out, for the younger kids, you are simply introducing the idea that animals also play hide and seek and they use clever costumes to help them be successful so these details are less important.

For the purposes of this photo, I've included both the contrasting yellow candies, as well as the more similar red and purple candies. You can even see the yellow ones through the red feathers, however the other two colors are a little tougher to spot except when they are right on top. When your child is trying to hurry, this task becomes even more difficult.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dolls Lesson

Getting Connected

As a way to connect from the Kaya series, to other American Indian Cultures, colonial culture and our modern culture, I chose to start with dolls.  For those of you teaching boys, this activity can still be used, just make sure to include "Action Figures" as part of the equation.  The Smithsonian has this FABULOUS lesson plan  (simply click the link to open it in a new window).

For Alice, I had to adjust the lesson a little because she isn't in a classroom setting that allows for breaking into all those separate groups etc, but we made it work.  I then had Alice make a rag doll to experience making something using the things we had available in our house.

We also took a quick look at the Hotch Potch dolls from the Merry Makers and Colonial Williamsburg this quick view was to further illustrate how dolls are used in many cultures as a learning tool.  I asked her to think of ways she and I had used dolls "educationally."

Alice's List:
  • To teach Benjamin body parts like hands, feet, eyes, nose etc.  Benjamin is the little guy we babysit regularly who is now three and starting preschool.
  • To teach Alice about how to handle babies before she started babysitting with me.
  • To teach Alice how to swaddle a baby (more recently for fun).
  • To teach Alice how to change diapers and clothes on a baby (which she recognizes she is likely to use in the future)
  • To teach Alice how to use zippers, buttons, Velcro, and tie ribbons (one of those fasteners dolls).
She did not mention the use of dolls for learning history - but we'll get there :-)   If you do this activity with your kids, I'd love to hear what "lessons" they list having learned from dolls not already mentioned.  Please feel free to add your comments.

Additional Lessons, Activities and Follow-Up

After Alice fully understood the Nez Perce way was far from the only American Indian way of life, and that the environment around any group of people (living before modern transit systems) impacted the way they lived and the materials they used, we took a look at the whole continent and compared legends, foods and housing styles of various Amero-Indian groups.  You'll want to be sure you have a good map you can mark up or put pins in to identify where different nations lived.  Here are some of the best resources I found for going about making these comparisons.

Infinity of Nations - Includes a "game" that is absolutely perfect for this purpose.

Native Americans Facts for Kids - TONS of resources and information in a kid-friendly format and vocabulary.

Native American Recipes - Yumm!!!

The "If You Lived" Book Series is a simple and helpful resource.  Relevant books in the collection include:  If you lifed with the: Iroquois, Cherokee, Hopi, Indians of the Northwest Coast, and Sioux.

Squidoo Lens - Great list of picture books and activities to do with them and more!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Who were/are The Nez Perce?

This page is written as a part of a larger unit centered around The American Girl's Kaya Collection.  However, it is intended to be a great resource for anyone wishing to learn more about the Nimi'ipuu people and their history.  I thought it would be important to get past just Kaya and her life from long ago and make it clear that the Nimi'ipuu have a long history that started before Kaya and continues to this day.  So, the links below will include lessons and information about Nez Perce culture at the time of Kaya as well as Chief Joseph and the war of 1877, and Nez Perce projects, culture and activism today.

As a basic first step, we added the arrival of the horse to the North American continent, The arrival of Lewis and Clark in Nez Perce land, The arrival of missionaries, the War of 1877, the years Chief Joseph and his band spent on the Oklahoma Reservation, and the inauguration of more recent projects such as the such as the Wolf Conservation and Management Project to a timeline we are making regarding all of our history studies.  For more lessons (from Pinch of Everything) about the Nez Perce OR the Kaya series and language lessons that can accompany it, you will want to return to the Kaya Unit Home Page, to do this, simply click the titled link, or scroll to the bottom of the page for another link there.

Tons of Lessons and Tons of Choices

Native American Arts - This link will take you to pages upon pages of wonderful information for background and research on cultural aspects of this nation of people yesterday and today.

National Park Service - Nez Perce Historic Monument -This link will actually take you to a whole page full of lessons about not only the Nez Perce, but other groups too.  Scroll to the Nez Perce for eight fabulously detailed and well-designed Lessons on Nez Perce and their history.  Additionally, I want to highlight the Isaaptakay Project - A set of lessons that includes wonderfully engaging activities, a little math, and fabulous photos for use with the lessons.

PBS Nez Perce - This site has general information relating to the Nez Perce and their History as relates to the PBS special, "The Nez Perce."  On the left-hand side, you will find links to further pages including one for "Classroom Resources."

Idaho Historical Society - Junior Historian Program - "The Prospector" is a pseudo newspaper for kids that outlines what was happening during the war of 1877, who was involved, and different perspectives on the matter.  Have your student/students analyze for evidence of bias to one side's perspective or the other.  Read through the newspaper together, but also watch the PBS special and then have your students/child present the same information in a new way - a children's book?  Graphic novel? Play/reenactment. . .  For more background information from the society, click here.

Discovery Education Lesson Plan - "Breaking the Stereotype - the Writings of Chief Joseph" is a lesson that uses Chief Joseph's speech as a way to introduce kids to a different vision of what it means to have been a Native American during the time of Westward Expansion in the United States.  You might consider having your kids also take a look at photos of Chief Looking Glass in the same way the lesson asks kids to take a look at photos of Chief Joseph.
Photos - Archived photos from the Smithsonian.

A Chart for Comparing Tribes of North America - Make some of the spaces in this chart blank by covering them before copying and then have your kids do research, or use what they've learned during your lessons to fill in the blanks.  Leave tribes you don't study right where they are, or replace tribes you don't study with those you do.

Return to Kaya Unit Home Page